Unearthed treasures to be displayed outside British Museum for first time

A Roman Calvary helmet and skillet will be on exhibition at Ely Museum from January 22 to June 26.

A Roman Calvary helmet and skillet will be on exhibition at Ely Museum from January 22 to June 26. - Credit: Ely Museum

People in East Cambridgeshire are being given the rare opportunity to see Roman objects, which were found locally, at a temporary exhibition in Ely. 

Margins of Empire: Romans in the Fens, will be running at Ely Museum from Saturday January 22 to Sunday June 26 and will star two ‘incredible’ Roman objects loaned by the British Museum. 

This will be the first time the treasures that were found in Witcham and Prickwillow, a calvary helmet and skillet, will be on display outside of London. 

Richard Hobbs, curator of Romano-British collections at the British Museum, said: “The helmet and skillet are fine examples of the rich material culture of Roman Britain. 

“It is really down to the unique burial conditions of the Fenland, more often than not waterlogged, that these objects are in such wonderful condition. 

“The British Museum is very pleased to see them being exhibited so close to where they were discovered.” 

A Roman calvary helmet will be on display at Ely Museum's exhibition 'Margins of Empire: Romans in the Fens'.

A Roman Calvary helmet will be on display at Ely Museum's exhibition 'Margins of Empire: Romans in the Fens'. - Credit: Ely Museum

The Witcham Calvary helmet is a key example of the helmets that would have been worn by non-citizen soldiers when they served in Britain. 

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The helmet was unearthed by peat cutters in 1870 close to Witcham Gravel and held in private collections before it was purchased by the British Museum in the 19th century. 

Dating from the 1st century AD, the ‘beautifully decorated helmet’ would have protected the head of the wearer through the outer lavish bronze casing that serves only a decorative purpose. 

A Roman skillet will be on display at Ely Museum's exhibition 'Margins of Empire: Romans in the Fens'.

A Roman skillet will be on display at Ely Museum's exhibition 'Margins of Empire: Romans in the Fens'. - Credit: Ely Museum

The Prickwillow skillet would have been used in religious rituals in the second century AD and features the name of the Celtic craftsman, Boduogenus, who made it, providing a personal connection. 

The skillet demonstrates Roman design and ornament of the highest standard being achieved by a provincial craftsman. 

Elie Hughes, curator at Ely Museum, said: “We’re very excited to be able to borrow these items from the British Museum and display them here, close to where they were found, for local people to see.” 

Margins of Empire, which opens on Saturday, explores the often-unseen role of people living in the Roman Empire who were not Roman citizens. 

The temporary exhibition will examine their religious beliefs, craft skills and role in the military.